CFL / LED bulbs and X-10 ?

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I decided to start using my old X-10 setup again. It worked OK w/ incandescent bulbs, but now I am trying to use CFLs using X-10 appliance modules. (I'm not trying to dim any of them).
First I started having a problem with lights responding to the timer, even when I tried doing so manually with the controller. And one would turn off and then promptly turn itself back on. I found some references to something about phases of electricity and phase couplers which was totally over my head, but I got enough out of the reading to try moving the controller to another circuit which worked for most of the modules.
Then I noticed one light wouldn't always turn off. This morning it was on again, so I used another controller to turn it off and even though it turned off, the bulb was flickering. That creeped me out and I unplugged it. I did more Googling and found out that this seems to be fairly common.
Question 1 - is this flickering or turning itself back on damaging or dangerous to the bulbs or components? Like, it's not going to catch on fire?
#2 - anyone know of any bulbs or modules that do work reliably and non-flickering with CFLs? I did see one person online mention "Pure spectrum" bulbs, but those don't seem to be too available and get mixed reviews.
#3 - Would LED bulbs work any better with my appliance modules? Or lamp modules?
Meanwhile, I'm tempted to go back to Target where they are still selling old fashioned bulbs and stock up <sigh>.
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wrote:

I have one CFL on a lamp module and it works perfectly. I have another on an appliance module and sometimes it does not work, but when it does go out, it flickers. It seems rather common, but I'm not sure why.
No experience yet with LED bulbs.
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On 1/27/2013 4:15 PM, Lee B wrote:

Try a GE Bright-From-The-Start CFL/halogen bulb.
http://www.gereports.com/bright-light /
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On 1/27/2013 4:15 PM, Lee B wrote:

module, which squirts a small amount of current through the load, when it is off. This allows the module to detect what is called, local on. If you turn the lamp off and then on, the module should respond by turning on. However, sometimes this small current and the interaction with the electronics in the CFL or any fluorescent lamp, will cause the module to think you want "local on" and will turn on the module when you are not expecting it.

modified several lamp modules to make them clickless appliance modules. At the same time I removed a resistor that shut down that small squirt of monitoring current. I've found 2 different modifications, one using a 5 Amp solid state relay and the other using a few dollars of component to make a 3 Amp appliance module. But even these can be a little troublesome with LED lamps. The 5 Amp solid state relay has a minute amount of leakage current that makes an LED Christmas string, light dimly when off. The other mod was ok. BTW, I found both of these mods on the internet. If you are not into electronics and soldering, don't attempt. Also, I think some of the Smarthome modules might have a defeatable monitor current, but I'm not really sure. Some of the mods are at http://www.laureanno.com/ and at http://idobartana.com/hakb/silent_local.htm If you google stuff like "CFL x10 modules flickering" you'll find a lot of discussion on the topic.

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responding to http://www.homeownershub.com/maintenance/cfl-led-bulbs-and-x-10-734383-.htm DA wrote:
Lee B wrote:

This isn't exactly LED bulbs you're asking about, but I wanted to give my observations on using the X-10 appliance modules with LED Christmas lights: an unmitigated disaster!
Well, I have to add another acronym to the mix tho - GFCI. So, I got this setup: GFCI outlet -> X-10 3-prong Appliance Module -> 6 or 7 strings of LED lights.
For some very strange reason (mostly having to do with GFCI I think) two or three strings of LEDs lights keep glowing despite the X-10 module being off. But the worst part is that I am loosing at least two strings of LEDs each season. As luck would have it, usually middle strings fail and therefore most of my display that's daisy-chained off of that goes dark. They supposed to be 110V pass-through but it's always killing the entire circuit nevertheless.
I don't exactly know what that is: a bad ground, a switched hot and neutral (hopefully not because the GFCI outlet tests OK), or the X-10 appliance module relay disconnecting only one of the lines - didn't have time to open one yet - but the end result of this combination GFCI->X-10->LED appears to be pretty bad for LEDs
--

/\_/\
((@v@)) NIGHT
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news:95545
<stuff snipped>
<<For some very strange reason (mostly having to do with GFCI I think) two or three strings of LEDs lights keep glowing despite the X-10 module being off. But the worst part is that I am loosing at least two strings of LEDs each season. As luck would have it, usually middle strings fail and therefore most of my display that's daisy-chained off of that goes dark. They supposed to be 110V pass-through but it's always killing the entire circuit nevertheless. >>
The older modules pass enough trickle current through the circuit (for sensing local lamp switch activation) that they also light strings of low wattage LEDs. It's what also causes CFL to pulse when turned off. Try one of the newer CFL friendly appliance modules (not marked as CFL friendly, sadly) and you'll probably see your problems vanish.
http://www.x10.com/promotions/am466_cat_hm.html
-- Bobby G.
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On 01/27/2013 09:29 PM, Robert Green wrote:

[snip]
The 110V pass-through depends on the fuse(s), and the cheaply-made connections to the fuse(s) and the connectors. However, most of my failures seem to be connections to the series resistor, which effect that string only.
[snip]

--
Mark Lloyd
http://notstupid.us
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On 1/27/2013 5:44 PM, DA wrote:

observations on using the X-10 appliance modules with LED Christmas lights: an unmitigated disaster!

setup: GFCI outlet -> X-10 3-prong Appliance Module -> 6 or 7 strings of LED lights.

three strings of LEDs lights keep glowing despite the X-10 module being off. But the worst part is that I am loosing at least two strings of LEDs each season. As luck would have it, usually middle strings fail and therefore most of my display that's daisy-chained off of that goes dark. They supposed to be 110V pass-through but it's always killing the entire circuit nevertheless.

(hopefully not because the GFCI outlet tests OK), or the X-10 appliance module relay disconnecting only one of the lines - didn't have time to open one yet - but the end result of this combination GFCI->X-10->LED appears to be pretty bad for LEDs

house, 2 connected end to end and 2 other 2 connected end to end. Each of the 2 lines were connected to a modified X10 Universal module. These are normally 120 volt units with a dry contact. I wired and output cord with a cube tap (tap end of an extension cord) internally to provide switched 120 volts, no local on current. I also removed to 2 screws where you would normally tie to the low voltage contacts so you wouldn't be able to touch the line. I did this for another reason, but now can use them as appliance modules. BTW, I read somewhere that the contacts can work at 120 volts, even though they say low voltage ... you know, "if it's on the internet, it's true!" Anyway, they have worked flawlessly for years. However, this year I noticed a dim glow when the circuit was off ... mostly the blue LEDs in the multicolored string. What I actually found was that, because the Universal module does not have a polarized male plug, it was plugged in so that it was actually switching neutral. The LEDs, being outside, were wet. There was sufficient leakage to ground to make them glow. Flipped the module, problem solved. I marked the modules as to polarity for the future. As I said, similar ... but probably different.
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The confusing issue about X10 and phases, is actual fairly simple. You have two hot wires feeding your house. Those waveforms are 180 deg opposite each other in phase. Between the two of them, you get 240V. Between either one and the neutral you get 120V. The odd 120V breakers in your panel are on one hot, the evens on the other. Double 240V breakers connect to both.
So, now you plug in an X10 receiver and an X10 transmitter. You have about a 50-50 chance that they will wind up on the same hot. If they do, the signal from the transmitter only has to go from it's outlet, to the panel, then on to the outlet that the receiver is in. That could still be 200ft, depending on the size of the house. And you have the issue of noise compromising it, etc.
But if the transmitter and receiver wind up on different hots, then how does it get from transmitter to receiver? One path is the signal has to go to the panel as before, then go out of the house, all the way to the transformer at the street, then back down on the other hot, into the house, to the other breaker at the panel and over to the receiver. The other possibility is the signal could go from one hot to the other via a 240V load that is on.
One way to see if this is part of your problem is to turn on an electric 240V oven and see if the modules will then work. If they do, they you pretty much know this is the problem. You've provided a shorter, more direct path through the oven. There are solutions, ranging from using a different outlet that is on the same hot leg, to moving a circuit to a different breaker so that it's on the same hot leg, to installing a cap which acts as a coupler, to installing a device which couples the two legs and also boosts the signal.
X10 can be great or it can be hell. Most perplexing is I've seen situations where everything worked fine. Appliance moduels for CFL, etc. And it worked for years. Then all of a sudden, it won't work anymore. No matter trying different modules, etc an outlet that worked 99% reliable just won't work again period with the same transmitter in the same outlet it was in for years. Now you'd think the most likely culprit would be some new piece of gear, like a cable box, appliance, etc that is creating noise. But in the most recent case I had experience with, there was nothing we could point to that was new that could have caused it. Nothing was new or had been moved in the house.
Also, I don't know the specifics of all that's going on with X10, but I think the main company that was promoting it has given up on it. There sure isn't anything much new out there. I think it's a dead end street. If you can put something together with stuff from Ebay that works ok for what you need, it can be fine. But I would not be looking at X10 as a reliable, home automation system with a good future.

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On 1/27/2013 5:51 PM, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

180 opposite? Really? Amazing what you can learn on Usenet.
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On 1/27/2013 5:11 PM, Your Name wrote:

Watching how this pissing contest unfolds is gonna be fun...
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It's really simple. Imagine it's a high school lab session. The two waveforms are displayed on an oscilloscope. The lab manual says to:
1 - Describe the phase relationship of the two waveforms.
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<<But in the most recent case I had experience with, there was nothing we could point to that was new that could have caused it. Nothing was new or had been moved in the house.>>
One of the most perplexing problems I had with X10 turned out to be a shoplight that had worked fine for years but as it aged and the tubes blackened it began to emit 120KHz noise at a voltage level high enough to interfere with X10 signals.
Since it was plugged into an outlet that was connected to the main panel by a very short run of cable, the interference propagated throughout the entire house and was coupled to the other phase by the coupler/amplifier. It took a digital X10 meter to reveal the noise, and only then by reading the noise level at outlets throughout the house looking for the strongest noise signal.
Anyone using X10 in this day and age should have a meter. I think the only game in town now is:
http://jvde.us/xtb/XTBM_description.htm
although Smarthome may have a few Monterey Powerline Signal Analyzers left (at $320!).
-- Bobby G.
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On 1/27/2013 1:15 PM, Lee B wrote:

For CFL's I swapped all the dimmer modules for appliance modules.
One solution to the phase problem is to put a cap across the two phases. I put a 600V cap inside the metal cage that surrounds the power input to the clothes dryer. Worked for years, then, one day, the cap exploded. Since I always use the wireless remote, I just put two receivers, one on each phase. Works well enough.
But I don't trust the system. I wouldn't put anything risky, like a coffee pot on it. I don't have anything that would be more than a minor inconvenience if it turned on or off unexpectedly.
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On Sunday, January 27, 2013 1:15:52 PM UTC-8, Lee B wrote:

Have you considered using these new wifi light bulbs?
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<stuff snipped>
The newer appliance modules from X10 are "CFL friendly"
http://www.x10.com/promotions/am466_cat_hm.html
and use a much lower trickle current through the bulb circuit than the older ones. They don't turn themselves back on or flicker when off. I bought 10 of them before the recent price increase that's nearly doubled the cost of the modules. (-; It's really the only way to reliably stop "relighting" and "flickering when off" without using a night light bulb or some other device also plugged into the appliance module when using CFLs.
On some ceiling lamps I've installed a socket splitter and used a 7W nightlight lamp in one of the split sockets to allow the trickle current to pass through and be largely absorbed by the incandescent filament in the nightlight bulb.
-- Bobby G.
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On 1/27/2013 10:24 PM, Robert Green wrote:

really work with CFLs, it seems like they are missing an advertising opportunity not to mention being CFL friendly. I knew I wasn't supposed to use lamp modules with CFLs and thought I was being clever when I bought a couple of used appliance modules on eBay which are obviously not the newer ones.
Also, to make sure I understand: alternatively I could take a one of those multi plug things (that turn one outlet into three) and plug that into the appliance module and then plug the lamp in and also a nightlight into that and it wouldn't do the flickering etc? Could I use anything else I have lying around in the 2nd plug or does it have to have a bulb? (Sorry, electricity is obviously something I don't understand).
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<stuff snipped>

X10 never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity . . . And yes, they really work. Amazingly so considering the number of years this problem has bedeviled people. If you search google about CFL friendly X10 appliance modules you'll find lots of "What took them so long?" testimonials. The new models solve both the flashing and the "unintended relighting" problems. Well worth the price of admission.

They do come with date codes on little labels but I doubt if you got new ones because lots of people are selling their old non-CFL friendly modules to replace them with newer ones. The old ones are still great for lots of other uses, but CFLs and LEDs aren't among them without using tricks.

Yes. Any other load connected with the CFL will provide an alternate "leak" path and stop the flickering. I found that as CFLs got more efficient, the flickering worsened although it's stopped now with the batch of new CFL-friendly modules I bought. I am assume not constantly pulsing current through the CFLs extends their lives but that's just a hunch not yet supported by long term observations.

I've had success using something like a small power transformer that charges my power screwdriver but a small resistive load like a incandescent 5W nightlight seems to work best. There's not much harm in trying other devices. As I recall, small green electroluminescent panel light did NOT prevent the flickering with the older modules. YMMV. (-:
-- Bobby G.
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On 1/29/2013 4:10 PM, Robert Green wrote:

taking an old one apart to try to tinker with it, LOL.
Thank you for your answers and your patience!
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<stuff snipped>

I have "modded" a few appliance modules to defeat the "local sense" option but I don't recommend it for novices. That's because there are a number of different circuit boards used and it's not always easy to determine which is which and what mod to use. I also found that while you can defeat the "local sense" option by clipping a diode wire, that doesn't stop the module from continuing to trickle current through the load (and causing CFL's to flash or LED lights to stay on dimly). The CFL friendly appliance modules are definitely the way to go in such cases. I suspect they will be just as useful when LED home lighting becomes the norm, too.
I feel much more comfortable modding devices like their Hawkeye battery powered motion sensor devices where no potentially lethal current is involved. (-:
I use the "socket splitter" technique mostly on ceiling lights and X10 wall switches because CFL's behave very badly when used with the standard X10 cheapy wall switch in circuits that lack a neutral wire at the switch (far too many). While most CFL's don't dim properly (or at all) with the X10 wall switches, they do work properly at full brightness as long as there's a "leak path" through a tungsten filament bulb via the splitter. There's room for a splitter socket and a small nightlight bulb in most of my ceiling fixtures, especically if they are already large enough to accommodate CFL bulbs.
I've tried the GE hybrid type bulbs (starts with an instant-on halogen and then switches to CFL) but they do not work properly in ceiling circuits controlled by X10. They turn on, but they never turn off! For a little more than the cost of the hybrid bulb you can get a CFL-friendly module that actually solves the problem.

You're welcome, Lee. While X10 gets a bad rap from people who have had problems in the past, it's really still quite an excellent protocol for home automation. With a little work and the proper tools (namely a good repeater/coupler like the XTB-IIR)
http://jvde.us/xtb/XTB-IIR_description.htm
it's a very workable and reliable system that's half the price (or less) than competing technologies. It just takes a little effort to accommodate the new additions to the world of home electrical equipment, namely switched power supplies. They are used in many devices now, including CFLs and they unfortunately can emit noise that blocks X10 signals. Those devices were not around when X10 was first designed and when they arrived on the scene they really did create havoc for X10 users. On the plus side, I find that switched power supplies are basically a lot more X10 friendly than they were when they first hit the market.
Good luck, Lee. X10, to me, still seems like magic. I use two very advanced home controllers (the HomeVision and the CPU-XA) that allow me to do things like setting up a single command to turn off all specified X10 devices, arm the burglar alarm system and reconfigure the CCTV system when I leave the house. I use 10 different housecodes that make a single "ALL LIGHTS OFF" command somewhat impractical. (-: The HomeVision controller can "sense" environmental conditions and react accordingly. Mine's set up so that if someone turns on the porch lights during daylight, they turn themselves back off within a few seconds.
Just recently I installed a modified Hawkeye with a pinhole mask over the sensor that works as a hands-free switch. All I do is wave my hand over the sensor, wet or dry, to activate the mute control on the TV (HomeVision allows combining X10 with infrared device controls). When HomeVision "sees" a command from that Hawkeye it sends out an IR "mute" command to the TV. Now, when I get a phone call or there's someone at the front door I can quickly mute the TV without having to search for the remote or having to touch the remote or the TV itself with wet hands.
Even X10's own controller and home automation program have enough horsepower to do some pretty impressive things. One feature I like is the ability to flash all the house lights in case of a fire or burglary. At night, it's sometimes difficult to locate where an alarm siren is coming from from the street. When all the lights are flashing in a house, that task becomes a lot easier. (-:
-- Bobby G.
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